GAO Report: Federal Workers Placed On Paid Leave Cost Taxpayers Over $700 Million

A new report from the Government Accountability Office has found that over a three-year time period ending in September 2013, over 57,000 federal workers were placed on administrative leave for 30 days or more.

The report revealed that 53,000 of those 57,000 employees were placed on paid leave for time periods between one and three months. About 4,000 employees spent anywhere from three months to a year on administrative leave, and a few hundred had been on paid leave for periods between one and three years. The cost of the 57,000 employees on leave was over $775 million.

According to the report, there were various causes of federal employees being placed on administrative leave. Alleged whistleblowing, disputes among personnel, and accusations of misconduct were among many reasons. There were also errors such as vacation time being categorized by officials as administrative leave.

One example of lengthy paid leave is Scott Balovich, an employee of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, who was placed on leave for six months while his computer was examined to investigate pornography being found on his computer’s hard drive. He was ultimately cleared of involvement and recently returned to his IT job at the agency. “You’re so anxious. You don’t know if you’ve got a job. You’re getting paid, but it’s no vacation,” said Balovich of his time on leave.

The report analyzed data from fiscal year 2011 through 2013 at the request of Senators Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Tom Coburn (R-OK), and Congressman Darrell Issa (R-CA). Grassley said he’d discovered curious incidents of federal employees being placed on paid leave through his own findings.

Grassley revealed several cases separate from the GAO’s report in a press release, including one instance where several ATF employees were on paid leave during the Fast and Furious investigation. In another case, Grassley said that Inspector General Paul Brachfeld of the National Archives and Records Administration was placed on paid leave against his will for almost two years before Brachfeld retired.

Grassley also pointed out that former IRS official Lois Lerner had been placed on administrative leave for four months before retiring.

The GAO’s entire report is available here.